After an exciting win against Arizona, Thanksgiving break offered the UCLA swim team a cornucopia of much-needed rest and rehabilitation ““ but the team isn’t done yet.
Reinvigorated by the landmark win, the first over the Wildcats in 12 years, and the holiday, the team heads to Austin, Texas today for the three-day AT&T Winter National Championships.
“They’ve been working hard and they really needed to have that time to just be with family. Now they’re spunky again,” coach Cyndi Gallagher said.
This weekend’s meet is unique in that it is open to anyone who met the qualifying time standards. Competitors will include high school students, club team members and representatives of many colleges. The Championship, which took the place of the usual collegiate-only Texas Invitational on the schedule, will offer the Bruins competition against the nation’s best, including several Olympians.
Junior Anna Senko, however, isn’t fazed. Senko, who swims butterfly, backstroke and the individual medley, said she is looking forward to racing fast swimmers who vary from UCLA’s usual NCAA competitors.
“There’s just been a lot of positive momentum, and everyone’s been swimming really fast, which is exciting,” Senko said, adding that she is particularly excited to face London Olympics standout Missy Franklin.
This positive momentum is a long-awaited reward for the swimmers, most of whom are finally starting to get payoff for the many improvements they’ve made throughout their college careers.
“I’ve kind of gradually improved, but this year it’s really been a lot more improvement,” junior Lauren Baker said. “A lot of things are coming together better.”
Only 15 swimmers ““ about half of the team ““ travel to Texas this weekend. And with finals week fast approaching, all freshman swimmers, including those who qualify for the meet, will remain at home in order to ease their transition to UCLA ““ but they won’t be taking it easy.
“The people that are (staying) are going to work hard and study hard and be ready to go,” Gallagher said.
“The kids that are (in Austin) are going to represent UCLA the best that they can and enjoy a little Texas barbecue.”